Monday, September 27, 2021

ASMSU approves climate, sustainability and OER bills among 14 going to GA

December 10, 2020
<p>The Student Services building at MSU on Oct. 26, 2020.</p>

The Student Services building at MSU on Oct. 26, 2020.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

Setting up one of the biggest General Assembly (GA) meetings of the fall semester, the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) approved 14 bills in committee meetings Thursday, Dec. 3. The 14 bills went through the Academic, Policy and Finance committees. 

The bills will be deliberated upon this Thursday, Dec. 10, at the last GA meeting before winter break. 

Academic Committee

Four of the 14 bills passed through the Academic Committee, and pertain to expanded culinary training, mental health days and a previously passed Open Educational Resources (OER) bill. 

Bill 57-50 recommends that MSU culinary expands allergy training to include part-time employees. Currently, only full-time employees and student supervisors are required to undergo this training, raising concerns for students who have food allergies.

Advocating for teaching faculty to allow a minimum of two days to be excused, Bill 57-51 was passed by the committee by voice majority. The bill cites rising concern over mental health due to isolation and other negative factors linked to COVID-19.

Bill 57-52 works to add a Creative Commons attribution to previously passed Bill 57-31. Bill 57-31 advocates for an expansion of OER at MSU. OER are free and open educational and teaching materials that are in the public domain or licensed for free use and repurposing. By adding this attribution, the bill is made available for anyone to distribute and adapt, as long as credit is given to the creator. The intent of adding this attribution was to, according to the bill, allow that “other institutions can use Bill 57-31 as a resource to advocate for OER at their respective institutions.”

Furthering a mission to spread OER, Bill 57-53 moves to sponsor an Association of Big Ten Students resolution to support advocacy for the expansion of OER by any Big Ten student government. 

Policy

In the Policy Committee, six bills were approved, addressing a wide variety of issues including sustainability, student representation and the Council of Graduate Students (COGS). 

Bill 57-43 aims to create a new, non-paid officer position within ASMSU as a liaison to COGS. The COGS liaison will have to present ASMSU legislation to COGS, report back to the GA on COGS happenings and act as a direct line of communication between the two organizations. Elections for this position will occur at the first fall meeting of each new session. Introducer Jordan Kovach, representative of the James Madison College explained the meaning behind the bill.

"I think the bigger our student governments grow, the more that we advocate for changes on campus that affect graduate students and I would like them to have a voice for us and for us to have a voice there," Kovach said.

Advocating for a student representative on the University Investment Subcommittee, Bill 57-44 will also be introduced to the GA on Thursday. There are no students serving on MSU subcommittees, which the bill authors, College of Natural and Agricultural Resources Rep. Blake Lajiness and College of Social Science Rep. Julian Trevino, say is a direct violation of Article 8 of the Board of Trustees’ bylaws, which states they are committed “to objectives of diversity and pluralism and to the principles of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination.” Lajiness, the bill's introducer, explained why there needs to be an increase in student representation.

"The investments that the university makes disproportionately affect the students, whether it be in the moment or years down the road when students are getting a career," Lajiness said. "It also affects future students." 

Bill 57-45 calls on ASMSU to address climate change by declaring it a “Climate Emergency” and pushes for the university to do the same. In 2018, MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. helped pen an op-ed that condemns climate change and puts some of the weight of the crisis on individual universities. Bill introducer Lajiness said that not only would it be a big feat for ASMSU to pass this bill, but that it's their responsibility to hold the administration accountable.

"President Stanley, at his tenure at Stony Brook University, wrote an op-ed, and basically in a nutshell, talked about that higher education institutions have a responsibility to combat climate change," Lajiness said. "He is now the president of MSU, and I think we should hold the administration and the entire university to that same standard." 

Bill 57-46 aims to create a more uniform definition of a student. The current definition according to the Student Rights and Responsibilities states that a student is: “An individual is considered a student from the Semester Start Date of the first term for which the individual has enrolled until graduation, recess, dismissal, or withdrawal from the University or he/she fails to register for more than one consecutive semester.” 

According to the bill, discussion started on the current definition over three years ago due to multiple definitions, an inability to manage student conduct prior to the “semester start date” and the fact it allows students to leave MSU and avoid the consequences of the student conduct process.

The new proposed definition reads, “A student is a person enrolled or participating in a collegiate-level, University-sponsored program or course, regardless of program level; full-time or part-time status; credit, degree, or certificate awarded; location; or mode of instruction. A person remains a student until graduation or completion of the program, permanent dismissal, or non-attendance for three full, consecutive semesters (including summer semester). This definition includes a person who is on a leave of absence, withdraws, recess, or graduates after an alleged violation of student conduct policies.”

Bill 57-47 advocates for an expansion to off-campus recycling through the creation and maintenance of a list of apartment complexes that offer recycling and meetings with management companies regarding the bill’s implementation, as well as supporting the Student Housing Cooperative and MSU Greek life efforts to obtain or supplement recycling. In his third bill of the night, introducer Lajiness used the results from a recent survey on landlord satisfaction to back-up the bill. 

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According to Lajiness, 40.3% of respondents found it inconvenient or very inconvenient to recycle at their off-campus housing, and 54.6% said that inconvenience was a deterrent for them to not recycle at all. 

"That's a problem," Lajiness said.  

The last bill in the Policy Committee, Bill 57-49, would amend the ASMSU Code of Operations and Personnel Code to establish an official process for the release of statements on behalf of ASMSU, having all statements made on behalf of ASMSU go through their PR Manager and approved by the GA or ASMSU Steering Committee. Aubrey Hanes, College of Natural Science representative and bill introducer, said that this bill would assure that the organization is properly represented.

"We all can speak to our own individual point of views and positions, but it's hard to speak on behalf of the organization without having input from the organization itself," Hanes said. "We wanted to adjust some sections in the code to show that and then in the future, everyone will be going through the same process." 

Finance

The remaining four bills were approved through the Finance Committee and deal with seasonal lights, COVID-19 prevention, East Lansing Info (ELi), and OER funding.

Bill 57-39 would allocate $640 to purchase 15 light therapy boxes that could be rented out to students. Light therapy is often used to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder by helping to alter mood and sleep habits.

In order to increase prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and influenza, Bill 57-40 would help fund the Student Health Services clinics by allocating $7,000 for the purchase of masks and thermometers that would be made accessible to all students. 

Bill 57-41 would allocate $3,000 to ELi, a local news source. ELi donors would triple match the donation if ASMSU made it before the end of the year. ASMSU has provided $4,500 to ELi between the past two sessions. 

Building on an OER theme, Bill 57-42 would establish an Open Education Awareness week, from March 1-5, 2021, and allocate $1,000 of the ASMSU General Fund to their academic affairs department to do so. The week would aim to raise awareness for OER and discuss how to address inequities in affording education.

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